Introduction

Often the only things people in the West associate with Islam are stoning and hand chopping. These images permeate our culture, from the trailer of hits like Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) to straight-to-cable pablum like Escape: Human Cargo (1998) (again, in the trailer... ‘If you can’t live by their rules, you might die by them’). There is no better example of how our society has consistently and profoundly misunderstood Islam and its tradition of law, known as the Shariah. Stoning and hand chopping do feature in the Shariah, but their actual function can only be understood by stepping back and examining how the Shariah conceives of law overall. Only then can we make sense of its severest corporal and capital punishments, known as the Hudud (pronounced Hudood).

The Idea of God’s Law

There’s More to Law than Law and Order

Criminal Law in Islam and The West

What are the Hudud?

God’s Mercy and Applying the Hudud Punishments

Off the Hook? How Non-Hudud Crimes were Punished

Historical Application of Hudud in Islamic Civilization

Why Have Rules if You Don’t Follow Them? Law in Pre-modern versus Modern Societies

Cruel and Unusual Punishment

How Should Muslims Understand the Hudud Today?

Can We Escape the Controversy?

Appendix: Requirements for Amputation for Theft from al-Subki

Notes